AEC President to Bahamas
By Kaelanne Jordan
The President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica has requested that a special collection be taken up in every arch/diocese of the AEC to aid the people of the Bahamas following the “horrific devastation” caused by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian which pounded the islands last Sunday to Tuesday (September 1–3).
Bishop Malzaire said he understands the despair and trauma his “brother” Archbishop Patrick Pinder of Nassau, Bahamians and especially the residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are experiencing at this time.
The Bishop, in a statement sent to Catholic News, shared that the distressing images of Hurricane Dorian, the harrowing requests for prayers, and expressions of utter helplessness have brought back memories of the traumatic experience of Dominica caused by Category 5 Hurricane Maria, September 2017.
Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the Atlantic, continued to pummel islands, leaving a deadly path of destruction despite weakening slightly.
Dorian was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane last Tuesday but continued to batter the Bahamas as it remained almost at a standstill. It weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as it approached the US east coast up to press time last Wednesday.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at least five people had died as a result of the storm, but officials said the death toll could go up.
Responding to questions via WhatsApp, Bishop Malzaire indicated he had communicated with Archbishop Pinder by email on Sunday to express concern. “He responded by saying that things are bad and requesting our prayers.” The correspondence went to all AEC bishops, Bishop Malzaire said.
The AEC President added that he tried contacting the Archbishop on Monday but “did not get through”.
In his statement, Bishop Malzaire gave assurance that the Conference stands ready to assist so that their brothers and sisters may rise from this “horrendous situation”.
He expressed sincere condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.
To those who have lost property: “Do not lose hope….Let us accompany the Bahamians with fraternal and prayerful support,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Living Water Community (LWC) and the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) have joined the rest of the country and the Caribbean in offering prayers and support to the people of the Bahamas. More so, they pledged to be among the first responders poised to help the victims.
While eager to assist Bahamians, SVP President Rudolph Boneo has expressed concern in navigating relief efforts to the island. Bahamas, he said, is “on the other side of the pond” and he highlighted concerns with regard to the cost of shipping relief aid, and the foreign exchange rate to Bahamas.
“Depending on how it goes, we will raise some funds and hope that we can get the banks to get the necessary change we can get to forward to them [Bahamas],” he said via phone.
Boneo shared that the Bahamas’ SVP President Shurn Brown Sawyer, who lives in Freeport, Grand Bahama was home when Dorian hit. When they last spoke, the day prior to Dorian, Sawyer mentioned it was a “terrible one” and to pray for them.
However, Boneo assured that SVP’s regional coordinator is in Antigua, “not too far” from the Bahamas and “on the ground” ready to assist.
LWC told Catholic News on Wednesday that they have worked with disaster relief in the past, locally and regionally, and are now preparing to assist in “whatever capacity” they can. “We continue to monitor the situation and assess what the needs are to determine the best possible way forward,” said LWC’s Assistant Director Rosemary Scott.
Chairman of the Mercy Foundation—a division of Living Water Community—Nigel Salina said that the foundation is currently working on deploying two planes to the Bahamas with medical and relief supplies “as soon as they get clearance”.
When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, Salina mobilised several groups from the local Chambers, business organisations, major corporations and NGOs for relief aid to Dominica and other islands. This involved the shipment of 60 containers of goods, restoring a school, and rebuilding homes in Dominica.
Speaking with Catholic News on Wednesday, Salina confirmed that the foundation will be spearheading “a similar type of exercise”.
He explained that he initiated a WhatsApp chat with over 200-plus CEOs, executives, ambassadors, multilateral agencies, major NGOs, the CEO and Chief Operating Officer of American actor Sean Penn’s Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) foundation and resilience teams from around the world—Europe, Latin America, North America, Australia, the Caribbean and as far as Africa to mobilise relief efforts to the Bahamas.